NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — After a lull of several weeks, fighting broke out in South Sudan on Friday, forcing aid workers to take cover in a city where more than 40,000 civilians are huddled in a U.N. base. The country’s rebel leader blamed the government for spending oil money on new weapons even as mass hunger is crippling the country.
Riek Machar, the country’s former vice president and current rebel leader, told The Associated Press that China should stop sending weapons to the government. He said government funds, which come from oil revenue, should be spent on citizens who face severe hunger.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said in South Sudan this week that U.N. officials have “very worrying reports” of arms being brought into the country to set the stage for more fighting when seasonal rains end.
Though the rainy season continues, fighting broke out in the city of Bentiu on Friday. Bentiu, where a U.N. base is jam packed with people seeking safety from attacks, has traded hands multiple times since violence spread across South Sudan last December. Government troops have been in control of it in recent weeks.
“We heard the sound of fighting and took cover in the bunkers as it started to get closer. We’re back at work now, providing life-saving assistance to those who have fled the violence and have chartered a flight for tomorrow morning to bring medicine to help treat the sick and wounded,” said Timothy Ngyuai, CARE’s project manager in Bentiu.
Aid leaders fear that South Sudan could be facing a famine. Since December, more than 1 million people fled their homes, meaning crops were not planted before seasonal rains began. The violence often pits one ethnic group against another in the world’s newest country. South Sudan broke off from larger Sudan in 2011.
The U.N. Security Council met with President Salva Kiir and spoke with Machar via video conference this week. Power said the two leaders should set aside their differences and resolve the man-made political crisis. She said a solution was urgently needed because of the looming famine.